Wham!� Here�s my AFC (American Football Conference) preview.
Stillers draw the AFC South as their conference opponents in 2011. That�s where to start.
What�s to like --- Wade Phillips will bring the best defensive mind this franchise has ever had. Former #1 overall draft pick Mario Williams playing OLB @ 6�6 290. The Texans have one of footballs best all purpose offenses. Houston balances the run and pass at exceptionally high levels.
Where there�s concern --- Just because Houston has a better chance of having a defense this year, doesn�t mean it will. Schaub has to be more diligent with the ball late in close games. With the Colts down their star quarterback, the Texans will be crowned the division champs early. Big time, premature hype has never been a positive for this team.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 83% Defense� 58% Specialty Players 33%
What�s to like --- The Colts� pass rush gets to opposing quarterbacks fast. Indianapolis has solid depth and a good rotation to keep guys fresh. Even without Peyton, the Colts have a number of offensive weapons to utilize. The defensive secondary will be aggressive and healthy.�
Where there�s concern --- Without Peyton under center someone else is going to have to call plays---like someone from the sidelines. It has probably been close to a decade since that was a responsibility not primarily held by Manning from the field.� The Colts have no hammer in the run game on defense, no physical plugger determined to eliminate ball carriers from gaining yards on the ground.�
Roster Stability --- Offense� 75% Defense� 92% Specialty Players� 66%
What�s to like --- Jack Del Rio apparently did what was best for the future of the franchise by cutting David Garrard. Even if it eventually costs him his job. Del Rio may be in jeopardy, and the team may be about to move, but his Jags will be going out fighting tooth and nail if he has any say in the matter. The compact and powerful Maurice Jones Drew is fun to watch.
Where there�s concern --- As was mentioned about the Buccaneers, Jacksonville struggles with fan support. The Jaguars lack a marquee player on the defense.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 75% Defense� 42% Specialty Players� 66%
What�s to like --- Lots of good experienced players on the offensive line. Chris Johnson has threatening speed.
Where there�s concern --- Jeff Fisher is gone. That leaves only the special teams coach, and the assistant head coach/strength coach as the remaining members of the old Houston Oilers. The Oilers were historically a rugged and tough football team. Fisher did well to personify that legacy. Someone else must now step forward to ensure that this franchise doesn�t lose touch with its traditions.�
Roster Stability --- Offense� 75% Defense� 75% Specialty Players� 100%
PLAYOFF PREDICTION --- Indianapolis Colts --- I expect Manning to return at some point this season and the Colts to run down either Houston or Tennessee.
What�s to like --- Denver has passionate Broncos fans. John Elway adds an element to the franchise that no one else could bring. Kyle Orton will start the season as the team�s quarterback.
Where there�s concern --- Tim Tebow is a great role model, but wasn�t a great draft choice. Denver picked him too high. As a first round pick, Tebow is expected to perform immediately. Even if he was ready, the rest of the team lacks the extra kick necessary to help a young quarterback out. The Broncos� vaunted running game is nowhere to be found.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 83% Defense� 50% Specialty Players� 100%
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
What�s to like --- Kansas City has great football tradition. Its stadium, fans and game day experience are famous for being first rate. Defensively the Chiefs have a nucleus of good, young players with game experience and a division title. Jamaal Charles is fast, like don�t blink or you might miss him score fast!
Where there�s concern --- Matt Cassel�s story of being a lifelong back up who earned a multi-million dollar starting contract is neat, but now what? He�s tough, efficient and plays like a #1, but can he win in the playoffs? The Chiefs have little offensive depth.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 50% Defense� 83% Specialty Players� 100%
What�s to like --- Oakland won every divisional match up last season. That gives its franchise something to feel good about, something to build upon. Al Davis has stayed true to his obsession with speed, and his roster is full of quick strike athletes. The Raiders� rushing attack possesses a good blend of breakaway speed (Darren McFadden), and powerful ball control (Michael Bush). R (Rookie) Rolando McClain quickly became a leader, and should hold down the Raiders middle linebacker spot for the next decade or so. ��
Where there�s concern --- The passing game lacks polish. When opponents put a stop to Oakland�s #2 rushing attack, Jason Campbell couldn�t keep the Raiders in the game with his arm. The rushing defense doesn�t stop anyone outside the AFC West. Non-divisional opponents rushed for an average of 188 yards per game.� �
Roster Stability --- Offense� 67% Defense� 75% Specialty Players 100%
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
What�s to like --- San Diego looks phenomenal on offense. Phillip Rivers is as good from the pocket as any quarterback in the league. The Chargers had more pass plays of 20 yards or more (66) than any other team in the league, and their 12.6 ypc (yard per completion) rate was also the league�s highest mark last season. Vincent Jackson, a contract holdout at this point last year, is now signed. Jackson adds one more big, physical player to an already enormous group of pass catchers.
Where there�s concern --- San Diego always seems to find new ways to be mediocre. If there is such thing as �innovative mediocrity,� this franchise has found it. Last year the Chargers blew the doors off this development. Spearheaded by having the league�s top ranked units on offense and defense, San Diego still missed the playoffs. That is cutting edge stuff.� �
Roster Stability --- Offense� 92% Defense� 58% Specialty Players� 100%
PLAYOFF PREDICTION --- SAN DIEGO CHARGERS --- The Chargers are going to score a lot of points.
What�s to like --- Ryan Fitzpatrick is intelligent, shows skill and even has some promise as the team�s quarterback. There is lots of speed at wide receiver. Buffalo returns almost all of its assistant coaches. The lone new face, Dave Wannstedt, will coach the linebackers and work on getting the Bills� ground game functional.�
Where there�s concern --- The run defense is abysmal. A unit that is perennially one of the worst in the league will find it difficult to make any strides this season (or to prevent its opponents from taking them), because the defensive scheme is in flux.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 58% Defense� 50% Specialty Players� 83%
What�s to like --- The Cowboys got into trouble when the dinosaur Bill Parcells was brought in to run their football operations. His system was successful in the mid to late 80�s, but when he tried to bring his Parcellosaurus to Dallas the Cowboys became fossilized. Parcells recently concluded a three year tenure working a lead role in the Dolphins football operations, and he may have learned a thing or two from his previous failure. For now, Bill appears to have left Miami in a better state than before he arrived. If this was accomplished and he unassumingly slipped out the back, good for him. The defense is stout. The Dolphins� secondary has some sharp looking players. Miami finds ways to run the ball.
Where there�s concern --- While they are not exactly the Miami Plesiosaurs, this franchise�s issues aren�t immediately available for resolve. Offensively Chad Henne has been offensive. Miami could lose ground quickly if it doesn�t draft well in the near future. �
Roster Stability --- Offense� 67% Defense� 83% Specialty Players� 100%
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
What�s to like --- Tom Brady is one of the most composed players in the game. The Patriots run game is underrated. Big tight ends are both effective blockers and receivers.
Where there�s concern --- 100 million dollar Albert Lamesworth�s behavior last year represented so much of what is wrong with this country --- an �overpriced, self inflated, superstar in Washington earning millions of dollars for doing nothing, yet New England couldn�t resist his charm. Lamesworth was seen rolling around like an overstuffed burrito late last season in front of 90,000 Washington fans, suffering apparently from a torn career. For this behavior, he was rewarded with a promotion to Patriot status. That�s hardly how the team�s dynasty of the previous decade operated.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 83% Defense� 58% Specialty Players� 83%
NEW YORK JETS
What�s to like --- Rex Ryan and his mouth. Mark Sanchez and his bold, Joe Namath like confidence. Defensively New York is once again stacked. Offensively the Jets have young players who are talented and more experienced than they were a season ago. Plaxico Burress gives them good mojo over the Patriots. Plax scored the game winning touchdown in Super Bowl 42, and decimated the Patriots� perfect winning season.���
Where there�s concern --- Sanchez is good, but I�m not ready to say he can put his team over the top. To win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl, the Jets would have to be able to get by the Stillers. Despite all the toughness he showed in last season�s match up for a ticket to the big game, Sanchez doesn�t scare me.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 75% Defense� 75% Specialty Players� 67%
PLAYOFF PREDICTION --- NEW YORK JETS & NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS --- These teams seemed destined to battle it out in the playoffs once again.
What�s to like --- Ray Lewis was a great draft pick. He is awesome and intense. Any team with him on the field is a force to be reckoned with. Ray Rice is an exceptional runner and receiver out of the back field. The defense has ferocious players who can get after the passer. Ed Reed appears to have gotten wiser as he advances in age. ��
Where there�s concern --- The Ravens are a classic bottom feeder first rate team. �They dominate weaker teams and are tough enough to play well against the Stillers. Baltimore wants its team to be considered elite, and if it can beat the Stillers then the Ratbirds can appear to be just that.� However, Baltimore hasn�t proven the ability to get past Pittsburgh when it matters. Joe Flacco�s propensity to hit check downs doesn�t inspire come from behind ability. If Baltimore can�t stretch the field with Lee Evans than the offense will eventually sputter.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 58% Defense� 75% Specialty Players� 100%
What�s to like --- Carson Palmer is gone. Andy Dalton is going to start from day one. Cedric Benson is a physical runner. The offense has lots of good young receivers. The defense has some good athletes, and they are healthy. �
Where there�s concern --- Carson Palmer is gone. Polamalu will have to intercept someone else�s passes and return them for touchdowns. The rest of the division looks tough. No matter how lenient Cincinnati parole officers are, it�s hard to envision this team breaking out of the AFC North cellar.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 92% Defense� 67% Specialty Players� 67%
What�s to like --- Colt McCoy is the best thing that could have happened to Cleveland.� He wants to win, and he�s willing to work hard every day to become an elite NFL QB.� If the Browns can build team chemistry by drafting well, then they have a chance to raise themselves out of the NFL�s junkyard.
Where there�s concern --- It�s Cleveland.� How can you not be concerned?
Roster Stability --- Offense� 75% Defense� 67% Specialty Players� 100%
like --- Professional football is a business. As with any business, it is
critical to be disciplined in good principles. Professional football is also a
game. As with any game, intelligent strategies and unique concepts can be used
for an advantage. NFL teams who combine a worthwhile business model with
product ingenuity have themselves a rock solid foundation. These franchises
will stack up better throughout extended periods of time to achieve their
purpose. Simply put, they will win.
It's clear to me that �discipline in good principles� pays off in professional football --- I'm a Stillers� fan. Watching this organization has crystallized a perspective that plenty of other teams� fans have never been privileged to witness. When Pittsburgh has turnover in its franchise, the last place it tries to go looking for help is outside of the organization. The Stillers build primarily through the draft. It�s a simple plan that works, makes so much sense, and yet other franchises still don't catch on.
The Stillers are loaded on offense and defense this season.
Where there�s concern --- The Stillers offensive line has improved dramatically over the past couple seasons, but more work remains to be done. The defense has trouble with elite level quarterbacks who can effectively build rhythm hitting short range targets. Listening to their own hype could get them in trouble if this team plays as well as it�s capable of.
Roster Stability --- Offense� 100% Defense� 100% Specialty Players� 100%� (The only perfect score)
PLAYOFF PREDICTION --- PITTSBURGH STILLERS --- An NFL season can be long and emotionally draining. To be the best Pittsburgh must handle whatever adversity shows up, and the Stillers have to play to their abilities each week. If these things get accomplished, I don�t see any good reasons this team would lose.
WILD CARD WEEKEND --- #6 BALTIMORE over #3 San Diego, #5 NEW ENGLAND over #4 Indianapolis
DIVISIONAL ROUND --- #5 NEW ENGLAND over #2 New York, #1 PITTSBURGH over #6 Baltimore
CONFERENCE TITLE --- #1 PITTSBURGH over #5 New England, Here We Go Stillers, Here We Go!!!